This Test Found Kidney Cancer Using Urine

Kidney cancer may be detected through test for aquaporin-1 and perilipin-2 proteins in urine

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Urine may be a waste product, but it's not useless. The stuff in your urine can tell the story of what is going on inside your body. Now, it could be used to reveal cancer.

A recent study has identified two proteins that are only found at high levels in the urine of those with kidney cancer. By screening urine for these markers, kidney cancer may now be easily detected.

This study was led by Jeremiah J. Morrissey, PhD, of the Department of Anesthesiology at the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis. In a press release, Dr. Morrissey explained the importance of early detection.

“By and large, patients don’t know they have kidney cancer until they get symptoms, such as blood in the urine, a lump or pain in the side or the abdomen, swelling in the ankles or extreme fatigue," Dr. Morrissey said. "By then, it’s often too late for a cure. Metastatic kidney cancer is extremely difficult to treat, and if the disease is discovered after patients have developed symptoms, they almost always have metastases. So we’re hoping to use the findings to quickly get a test developed that will identify patients at a time when their cancer can be more easily treated.”

Around 65,000 people are affected by kidney cancer each year in the United States, and it is fatal for about 14,000 patients annually, Dr. Morrissey and team noted.

These researchers took urine samples from 720 patients undergoing routine abdominal CT scans, 80 healthy patients and 19 patients with confirmed renal cell carcinoma (a type of kidney cancer). The CT results of the patients undergoing abdominal CT were later screened for evidence of kidney cancer.

The urine samples were checked for two proteins previously shown to be tied to kidney cancer: aquaporin-1 (AQP1) and perilipin-2 (PLIN2). The patients with known kidney cancer had much higher levels of both proteins. The healthy patients had low levels.

All but three of the CT scan patients had "healthy" levels of these proteins in their urine. The three patients with abnormally high levels were later found to have undiagnosed kidney cancer. The successful detection of their kidney cancer showed that this type of screening method may be effective.

This study was published March 19 in JAMA Oncology. It was funded by the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Frontier Fund and the Department of Anesthesiology at the Washington University School of Medicine. The Bear Cub Fund of Washington University, Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Science and a grant from the National Cancer Institute also funded this research.

Washington University in St. Louis had a European patent for the use of AQP1 to diagnose kidney cancer.

Review Date: 
March 19, 2015
Last Updated:
March 24, 2015